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Finance ministry braces for major makeover of officials amid battle to boost growth

Several crucial posts in finance ministry, including expenditure secretary & joint secretary (Budget), are either lying vacant or will soon fall vacant.

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New Delhi: The finance ministry, which is struggling to reverse the economic slowdown and working on the next union budget, is likely to get a complete makeover soon with new officers being appointed in crucial posts.

With just two months to go before the Budget is presented in February, key posts in the ministry are either lying vacant or will soon fall vacant.

The position of the expenditure secretary has been lying vacant since Girish Chandra Murmu, a 1985-batch Gujarat cadre IAS officer, was appointed the Lieutenant Governor of the newly carved out Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in October.

While the government is expected to soon appoint a new expenditure secretary, Atanu Chakraborty, who is the economic affairs secretary, has been given additional charge of expenditure in the absence of a full-time officer.

However, Chakraborty, also a 1985-batch IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre, is himself set to retire by April 2020. He was appointed the economic affairs secretary in July.

Also, Finance Secretary Rajiv Kumar is set to retire in February 2020 — just weeks after the Budget is presented. The position of the finance secretary is the senior-most among the secretaries at the ministry’s five departments — economic affairs, revenue, expenditure, financial services and department of investment and public asset management (DIPAM).

Also read: How finance ministry tried to convince RBI on its concerns over electoral bond misuse

Kumar, a 1984-batch IAS officer of the Jharkhand cadre, had succeeded Subhash Garg who was moved to the power ministry by the Modi government earlier this year.

It is, however, possible that Chakraborty and Kumar will be given an extension since the two officers are known to be highly reliable and close to the PMO, sources said.

Also, sources in the government say there is some talk that Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, who is due for retirement in 2021, could be transferred to another department in the backdrop of the economic slowdown.

The post of the DIPAM secretary had also fallen vacant in October, when Anil Kumar Khachi was repatriated to his parent cadre “on personal ground with immediate effect” within two months of his joining. It was subsequently filled by Tuhin Kanta Pandey, a 1987-batch IAS officer from the Odisha cadre.

There are vacancies at the joint secretary level as well. The crucial position of joint secretary (Budget) has been lying vacant for the last three months with Rajat Kumar Mishra, who was appointed JS, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), earlier this year, being given additional charge.

Also, the position of joint secretary, currency and coinage division, has also been vacant.

The finance ministry spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment for this report.

With inputs from Remya Nair

Also read: In just 4 months as finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman has become face of India’s slowdown


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